According to bee experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a third of the world’s food production depends on bees.
Pollinators, such as honeybees, provide a wide range of benefits to humans and contribute directly to food security. Our well-being depends heavily on various ecosystems and their functions. To a large extent, pollinators drive and maintain the good health of these ecosystems. Bees are the most important group of pollinators, visiting more than 90% of the leading 107 global crop types.
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male to the female parts of a flower that results in the forming of fruit. Most fruit, seed and berry crops are dependent on insects, especially honeybees, to ensure a fruit or seed are produced.
More than 50 different crops in South Africa are reliant on the existence and work of the honeybee. Thanks to these busy workers, we can produce apples, pears, citrus, and other fruits that make up a major export market.
Sadly, bee populations have been declining globally over recent decades due to habitat loss, intensive farming practices, changes in weather patterns and the excessive use of agrochemicals such as pesticides. This in turn poses a threat to a variety of plants critical to human well-being and livelihoods.
Here’s how you can “bee” kinder to bees:
- Plant nectar-bearing flowers such as Michaelmas Daisy, Cape Honeysuckle, Tree Fuchsia or African Dogwood. By planting a bee garden, you can create a safe haven for bees with pollen- and nectar-rich flowers by planting a range of shapes, sizes, colours, and bloom times.
- Trees are actually the biggest source of nectar for bees. When a tree blooms, it provides hundreds — if not thousands — of blossoms to feed from. Trees are not only a great food source for bees, but also an essential habitat.
- Bees work up quite a thirst foraging and collecting nectar. Fill a shallow bird bath or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they break the water’s surface. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to take a long, refreshing drink.
- Use pesticides that do not harm bees, and spray them in windless weather, either early in the morning or late at night, when bees withdraw from blossoms.
- Buy locally produced honey (or raw honey) from trusted sources. Smaller-scale beekeepers are more likely to treat their bees more humanely.